“The date is not known when Gainesville was first just a cross-roads…Bud Higgenbothem is presumed to be the first settler. His cabin was on South Main Street, on the west side, across from the fire station….”
History of Gainesville: Jesse G. Davis.
Of course, when Bud built his cabin there was neither a South Main Street or a fire station. Those would come much later, along with the stores, hotels, houses, railroads and other trappings that would conspire to turn Bud’s little piece of wilderness paradise into the City of Gainesville.
But do you know what Bud Higgenbothem did have within spitting distance of his cabin?
Sweetwater Branch Creek.
Its proximity was likely the reason he sank roots here in the first place. Because it was probably the primary source of his drinking water.
Which is to say that Sweetwater Branch is Gainesville’s First Creek. It is likely the very reason that a single cabin could evolve into the “store or two, a tavern, a blacksmith’s shop and a grist mill” that Davis credits with birthing GNV.
Yes, we know that GNV is a university city because Boulware Springs promised ample water with which to attract the University of Florida. But long before that, it was Sweetwater Branch that lured people here.
Why the history lesson?
I only bring this up to point out that the University of Florida, and all of the promises and potential that accompanied its relocation here, would likely not have happened if Sweetwater Branch hadn’t first provided the “stuff of life,” the life-sustaining water, that GNV’s pioneers required to put down roots.
If only Sweetwater were still here to remind us of it’s city-founding importance.
Well it is still here. More or less.
You can still see the “best” of what remains of Sweetwater in the Duck Pond, where the creek first sees the light of day.
Unfortunately, after you get past the scenic beauty of the Duck Pond, the rest of Sweetwater Branch looks pretty much like this…when you can see it at all. Basically it is a drainage ditch engineered to deposit as much urban runoff into Paynes Prairie as efficiently as possible.
That’s what Gainesville’s First Creek has come to. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Listen, we have it in our power to bring back Gainesville’s First Creek. And in the process we can create a people-to-people connector between neighborhoods in the very heart of our city.
We can resurrect the original course of Sweetwater Branch. And in doing so, connect Gainesville neighborhoods…Springhill to the B&B District to the Duck Pond to Pleasant Street to Porters and more.
We can create a six-mile greenway – a people-to-people connector – through the very heart of the city that Sweetwater Branch gave birth to.
This summer the Gainesville City Commission will compile a project list to present to voters who will decide this fall whether to reauthorize the Wild Spaces and Public Places sales tax initiative.
We friends of the Sweetwater Branch Loop are urging the commission to include this project on the WSPP list. Please join us in letting your commissioners know that you also support this grassroots campaign to Reclaim A Creek – Connect A City.
Sweetwater Branch, Gainesville’s First Creek, sorely needs some friends right now. Please help us Reclaim A Creek – Connect A City.
We can do this GNV!